This year, as Sukkot approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about
shelter and safety, both real and illusory.
The sukkot that we build in our backyards in the suburbs, and on terraces and rooftops in the city, are lovely. They’re usually green and often fragrant; until the pandemic we’d crowd close together in them, and this year most of us will feel safer getting closer to each other than we have for the last two. We talk and we eat and we drink and although the sukkot are meant to remind us of life’s fragility, it’s easy to overlook that lesson in the competing one they teach, about family and friendship and love and trust, about the interlocking of the generations and how wisdom and custom are passed down the chain to us and then from us.
Although the news cycle moves so extraordinarily quickly now that news from 10 minutes ago seems like old news, it was only last week that Florida was devastated by Hurricane Ian. (Why do we name hurricanes like that? To domesticate and defang them? It would be great if it worked, but it doesn’t — but I digress.) It seems that almost 100 people are known to have died as a result of the storm, there are many billions of dollars of damage, and countless houses have been destroyed. People who chose to ride out the storm at home saw their houses wash away, bit by torn damaged jagged bit.
And we read about Ukraine, where the Russians, as if in fits of otherwise impotent rage, rain death on the people whose country they invaded. And we read about Russia itself, a country thrust from ordinary life into peril by the actions of a strongman drunk on power, a place where most of its men have to leave home to escape being dragooned by military recruiters or face a decade or more of imprisonment.
In neither of those places is home a safe place.
We are very lucky to live here now.
We at the Jewish Standard and the New Jersey Jewish News hope that all our readers will have the luxury of thinking about the intersection of fragility and love, green leaves and brown branches, from the relative safety of their sukkot; we hope as well, if with more doubt, that the storm-tossed victims of Ian in Florida and of mad Putin in Russia and Ukraine also find comfort, stability, and four solid, welcoming walls this year.
Chag sameach from all of us.